From Supernatural to Once Upon a Time, Interstellar and Heartland, Jason Cermak has been in multiple productions – many horses. He has also appeared in Zoo, When Calls the Heart and Psych.
1. Tell us about the different productions that you’ve ridden for, Stolen Horses, Once Upon a Time and Supernatural.
Stolen Horses was an Alberta shot short film for a graduate student from the Tisch School of the Arts in New York. It was based on the novel Stolen Horses by Barry Lopez, a real story about a group of young men that are angry about rich city folk coming in and buying out all the farms in the area, not knowing how to look after the land or the animals. They decide to steal a bunch of their horses to teach them a lesson, and something goes horribly wrong.
For Supernatural I was an 18th century civil war soldier riding up on horse urgently to a cabin to deliver a message of Cain fast approaching and to protect the knife. (It doesn’t go well for my character when Cain arrives.)
For Once Upon a Time I was a Black Knight on horseback, hunting Snow White and Riding Hood for the evil queen.
2. I understand that you grew up on a farm in Alberta; how do you think this experience benefited you as an actor?
Growing up in rural Alberta has helped me on numerous shows like Hell on Wheels and When Calls the Heart – just understanding the hard-working live-off-the-land way of life that comes with farming. Growing up on a farm also forces a kid growing up in the 80s to use one’s imagination. We didn’t have computers or video games (we had a TV with two channels) so imagination was key and that’s such a gift to give a child, especially one going into a creative field like acting.
3. Do you have a favourite horse that you have ridden for filming?
The horse on Supernatural was simply amazing. Honestly like autopilot; he knew where to go and how to get there. I just had to hang on and give him hints on what to do and he would do the rest. Many film horses know how to return to the starting marks and actually go when the director calls “Action.”
4. Do you have any behind-the-scenes stories to share?
I really enjoyed spending time on the ranch in Longview, Alberta, shooting Stolen Horses and riding my set horse Buster. All the horses on the production were well trained and very relaxed animals. There was a moment, however, that I was butting heads with Buster a bit in a scene. I had to come running up and stop on a specific mark and Buster was having none of it. The trainer on set let me know I was ticking Buster off and we had to take a break and let things settle for a bit. I am not an expert horseman nor do I claim to be, and I find a common attribute for set horses is that they are incredibly patient with riders such as myself that lack the confidence that is required for complete trust between the animal and rider.
On Supernatural, it was the first time I have ever had to ride with a sword strapped to my belt and the scene required me to come galloping in and dismounting before the horse even comes to a stop. I was concerned I would impale myself or the hurt the horse with the sword, but luckily through the magic of movies they replaced my sword with a safer rubber version.
5. What do you enjoy most about working with horses?
Set horses are so patient and are actually very forgiving so working with these animals I find myself relaxing more and enjoying getting to know the animal. I love animals so having a horse by my side all day on set is just a real treat.
6. What made you decide to take up acting?
My mom was a drama teacher and my aunt got into TV commercials. I was just so excited and amazed by film making and my first film set in 2000 was The Bourne Identity in Prague with Matt Damon, and Damon told me that if I loved it, I should give it a try. Just don’t do it to become rich, don’t do it to become famous, and I’d be able to make a living at it with the right intentions. I decided to go for it and get an agent when I returned to Canada and that’s what I did.
7. Tell us about your experience on Heartland.
I love Heartland. I did stand in on Heartland for many years and got to meet the cast on a number of occasions. Finally getting a role was very exciting for me. I played Chad Rogers, a bull rider, and actually got to get on the back of “Sloppy Joe” a Black Angus bull. The only time I’ve ever been on the back of a live bull. He was a very calm softie, and then my stuntman went in and took over for the real bull. It was just a fun experience all around.
8. What is the funniest thing to ever happen to you whilst filming?
Matthew McConaughey wouldn’t use the “honey wagon” portable toilets when we were out shooting Interstellar. So I remember one day I was sitting out in the back of the farm house and Matthew came out and took a leak right beside me. Hey, we all gotta go.
9. How did you get into riding?
My dad was a calf roper (tie down roper) and got me on my first horse “Spooky” at age 4. (I named him that because he was black and tended to spook easily.) How lucky I was to have a horse at that age, I know now. But I remember riding as my dad had the halter leading the horse up front and I’d slowly fall to the side till I fell off the horse entirely. It always hurt.
10. Do you have any upcoming projects that you’d like to share?
I’m currently filming season 3 of Zoo playing a villain named Greg Mansdale and am also just wrapping up on the second film of nine for Hallmark with the singer Jewel. Series is called the Fixer Upper Mysteries where Jewel’s character is a handywoman that happens to have a knack for solving crimes. I play her best friend/cop Tommy Sloan.
Readers are also invited to meet Graham Wardle, CBC Heartland’s Ty Borden, to meet Shaun Johnston, CBC Heartland’s Grandpa Jack, and meet Michelle Morgan, CBC Heartland’s Lou Fleming and meet Miranda Frigon, CBC Heartland’s Janice Wayne.